First it was the dress, then the flip-flops. Now the internet is in a virtual battle over an audio recording that’s either saying “Yanny” or “Laurel,” depending on what your ear registers.
Like many viral tidbits that do little more than suck precious time from your day, the clip is courtesy of Twitter by way of Reddit. And just like the dress, which viewers either saw as gold and white or blue and black, this debate has pulled in people all over the internet, including celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Chrissy Teigen.
Despite the fact that the camps are clearly divided between those who hear “Yanny” and those who hear “Laurel,” it is not a matter of virtual witchcraft — there’s a legitimate reason for the discrepancy.
“Part of it involves the recording,” Brad Story, a speech, language and hearing professor at the University of Arizona, said to CNN. “It’s not a very high quality. And that in itself allows there to be some ambiguity already.”
One intrepid Twitter user, eager to ease the tensions between Team Yanny and Team Laurel, broke down a way to manipulate the recording so that you can hear either word.
“If you have a low quality of recording, it’s not surprising some people would confuse the second and third resonances flipped around, and hear Yanny instead of Laurel,” Story said.
What you hear is also due to visual and emotional cues, as well as age. David Alais from the University of Sydney’s school of psychology says the older a person is, the less sensitive they are to high frequency alterations, which could explain why he, at 52, hears “Yanny.”
WATCH BELOW: Why some people can see the true colours of the dress
Others point out that because we’re looking at the two words when listening to the recording, our brains could automatically fixate on one word, thus influencing what we hear. While a personal history with more people named Laurel versus those named Yanny could also play a part.
“All of this goes to highlight just how much the brain is an active interpreter of sensory input, and thus that the external world is less objective than we like to believe,” Alais said to The Guardian.
WATCH BELOW: Speech pathologist explains why we can’t agree whether it’s ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’
Some might argue that there’s no right or wrong answer, but Story concluded that it’s very likely that the original recording said “Laurel,” thus claiming a victory for those (of us) who heard Laurel all along.
LISTEN: Yanny vs. Laurel explained
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